Breast Cancer Recovery & Physical Therapy

Published - Nov 08, 2023

Breast Cancer Recovery & Physical Therapy

Clinically reviewed by South Sound Physical Therapy – Lacey Clinic Director, Dr. Stephanie Sparks, PT, DPT, MLD-C, CAFS, ASTYM cert.

Stephanie Sparks is a Certified Level 1 KickPink Practitioner treating those with and recovering from breast cancer treatment. She has also taken training in breast cancer rehabilitation through Klose.

Breast cancer affects one in eight women. Many treatments for breast cancer, including medications, surgery and radiation, can have unintended side effects, including pain or limited range of motion with daily movements of the shoulder, chest and neck. Physical therapy can help address these unexpected side effects: lymphedema, lymphatic cording, osteoporosis, weight gain, fatigue, joint pain, and peripheral neuropathy secondary to breast cancer treatment.

The Benefits of Physical Therapy

Improves Range of Motion

Breast cancer treatments, including surgery, radiation, and breast reconstruction, can lead to pain and a lack of shoulder range of motion. Patients may find it difficult to reach overhead or behind their back due to pain in their shoulder and chest. Physical therapy exercises and manual therapy techniques can help restore movement and reduce pain.

Manages and Decreases the Risk of Lymphedema

Lymphedema can develop when lymph nodes are removed or damaged by breast cancer treatments. This results in a buildup of lymph (clear fluid that helps the body filter waste) and may cause swelling in the affected limb. Lymphedema can be uncomfortable and even painful. Physical therapy can help manage and reduce the effects of lymphedema through manual lymph drainage, decongestive therapy, and the use of compression garments.

Decreases Pain

Pain in the chest, shoulder and arm is an unfortunate side effect from breast cancer treatments. Physical therapy can help manage symptoms through manual therapy and exercise to reduce pain and decrease the likelihood of developing chronic pain.

Decreases Fatigue

Cancer-related fatigue is one of the most bothersome side effects of cancer treatment. Physical therapy can help develop a personalized exercise routine which may decrease fatigue and improve energy.

The goal of KickPink practitioners is to improve the quality of life for breast cancer fighters and survivors and help return our patients to what they love to do in life. We can partner with you or your loved ones during breast cancer recovery. 


Learn more about our service offerings at IRG here, including physical therapy, hand therapy, massage therapy, performance enhancement, athletic training and more.